Wednesday, May 27, 2020

The Sandman Becomes High-Maintenance

Where YOU Weigh In on the Pros and Cons of a Character's New Attire


As spiffy as the Sandman may look here, in 1963 he premiered with a very simple, somewhat thrifty look wearing a striped green pullover shirt and a pair of casual slacks, which served him well for quite awhile and a look which he eventually readopted.  Yet in 1967, he gave himself a refit, wearing a costume of his own design while having taken a crash course in science to outfit it with chemicals that would mix with his sandy form and give him an additional edge in battle.

That must have been some science course. Admittedly I had to shake my head a couple of times at trying to wrap my head around Flint Marko (aka William Baker) giving Reed Richards a run for his money in dishing out ten dollar words that explained his costume's new functions in detail.

As we can see, artist Jack Kirby didn't let Marko keep his sleeves and gloves for long, probably because the Sandman's arms and hands were so often in use in sand form. In fact, it was often hard to tell whether the upper part of the costume which contained his chemicals was able to shift to sand along with the rest of him. At first the answer appeared to be "no":

...which might be a good thing, because the Sandman looks pretty awesome when allowed to shift his entire form to menace his opponents.

Other artists, however, had no qualms about making the Sandman's costume, along with its chemical supplies and controls, a part of him.

It looked to be the same situation with Marko's casual attire, where Kirby kept us guessing as to whether or not it was able to blend with his sand form (we have to believe that Marko at the time wouldn't have had a clue about how to whip up clothing made of unstable molecules):

While artist John Buscema dispensed with the conundrum entirely.

The Sandman's new costume received a decent amount of mileage in titles like Marvel Team-Up, Incredible Hulk, Amazing Spider-Man, et al. before Marko reverted to his old look. But the jury may still be out with readers as to whether his chemically accessorized all-green threads should make a comeback.

So what's the verdict: Is the Sandman's costume an improvement over his original look?

OR: ?

Monday, May 25, 2020

Collected By The Collector!

As one of the Elders of the Universe--each the last survivor of their otherwise extinct race--the Collector shares a trait with his fellow Elders in that his particular zealous preoccupation (in his case, curating his collection) is often undertaken without taking into consideration the wishes or objections of those he sets his eye on. The Avengers would be the first to agree with such an assessment, having been objects of the Collector's pursuit on more than one occasion. First encountering the Collector in mid-1966, the team became aware of this being when the four replacements to the original lineup were contacted by Henry Pym, the Avenger known as Giant-Man, who was seeking help in locating the missing Wasp. Little did they know that she was but the first Avenger to be ensnared in the Collector's obsession for prized objects.

With the Collector having taken the step of luring the Avengers to his base, it stands to reason he's prepared to capture them. Even so, he's nevertheless surprised by the apparent absence of Giant-Man, until he finds out the hard way that the size-changing Avenger he's looking for has rejoined the team as "Goliath"--and a fighting-mad giant, at that.

As we've seen, Pym has returned with complications involving his size-changing ability, with his body no longer able to achieve any size other than twenty-five feet--a height he must remain at for fifteen minutes, no more, no less. That sort of handicap makes pursuing a fleeing villain in close quarters difficult; but thanks to the other Avengers, the Collector is eventually corralled, albeit not entirely helpless.

With the Avengers already having had dealings with a time-traveling foe in the form of Kang, it's disappointing to see another villain pull time travel out of a hat in order to escape to fight another another day--though given our limited knowledge of the Collector thus far, we're left with the impression that his activities (and, from the look of things, his relics) have been confined to Earth, which leaves his avenue of escape limited to teleportation by some means. That said, I dare say that a hand-held time traveling device that's been identified as an "artifact" would be a strong indication that he's obtained some of his acquisitions on other worlds (though heaven knows there have been enough Marvel stories dealing with ancient yet advanced beings and civilizations on Earth for the Collector to have tapped).

At any rate, speculation on the Collector's origins is rendered moot with his next appearance in 1968, this time conducting his affairs from a massive alien ship that has a more visible assortment of items, specimens and technology collected from all parts of the galaxy. Even so, a battle with the Avengers results in the destruction of the vessel--though when the Collector shows up in 1974, the story's cover makes it clear that this being isn't about to give up on adding the Avengers to his inventory.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Beware The Invasion of Warlord Kaa! (Or Not)

It's 1977, and The Champions, the brainchild of writer Tony Isabella which featured the new Los Angeles super-team of the Black Widow, the Ghost Rider, Hercules, the Angel, and the Iceman, appears to be having a rough time establishing a firm foundation for itself as well as a firm connection with its readers*. Launched in October of '75, its second issue took three months getting to the sales rack, leaving the impression that issue #1 was simply a "pilot" concept released into the sales arena to determine if it generated sufficient interest to merit being produced on a regular basis** (as was the case with a number of early '70s first issues). Once out of the gate, the book was assigned monthly status, which seemed a good sign of its reception; yet the honeymoon appeared to be over after four issues, when the book was quietly shifted to a bimonthly schedule.

*Who were unsparing in their criticisms in the book's first letters page. Curiously, the next letters page, featuring letters apparently collected from an altogether different mailbag, looked to be carefully cultivated to shower that first issue with laurels and words like "blockbuster," while drawing favorable comparisons with the achievements of Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Roy Thomas.

**Isabella instead blames a long process of selecting group members and selling Editor Len Wein on the idea: "...that task took nine months. When THE CHAMPIONS, then called GIANT-SIZE CHAMPIONS, finally got the go-ahead, it was already late. That's why there were three months between the premiere issue and the Champs' second outing." I'm not quite following the train of thought here. Isabella's reasoning would only explain why issue #1 would have taken awhile to make it to the sales rack, but not a three-month gap between that issue's publication and issue #2--i.e., once Wein had signed off and the first issue was produced and distributed, why would there have been any gap between issues from that point?

After the next  four issues were published (with two months passing between each), readers were likely surprised to see issue #9 arrive a month early, with #10 also taking just thirty days to see print--a decision which was finally hailed in #11, while making mention of some character reshuffling in the process:

It was a sensible decision to dump Fenster and Bale (the Champions' P.R. representative and lawyer, respectively)--arguably the team's ball and chain, who gave us the sense that the Champions couldn't make a move without their input. (By comparison, think of how Henry Gyrich's directives weighed down the Avengers.) Unfortunately, the announcement of the book's renewed monthly status was ill-timed: with the publication of issue #12, The Champions was returned to bi-monthly publication, where it remained until its cancellation five issues later.

And if it seems like this book is in freefall, think how Black Goliath feels at joining them on the way down!

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Scintillating Selfies From Seasons Past!

While there are a number of self-portraits of comics artists, it seems a lost art when the artist would surround his image with those comics characters he or she was best known for. The first time I became aware of such portraits was when Marvelmania--Marvel's licensing arm in California which absorbed the old M.M.M.S. and sold fans a variety of memorabilia in the early '70s--grouped together a number of such portraits and advertised them for sale in books published circa 1971:

In those early days of my Marvel Comics acclimation, I was thrilled to see portfolios of those artists whose work I was just getting to know. (Jack Kirby, of course, had departed Marvel by that time, but I was starting to devour reprint titles featuring his art.) I remember being a little disappointed by John Buscema's offering, which featured only a sampling of his work from a single title, Silver Surfer:

Yet there later appeared an offering from him that showed what might have been in a more comprehensive rendering, while other outlets have adapted his pose to create their own portrait of the artist and the many characters which benefited from his style.

Buscema's brother, Sal, who also has a rich portfolio of work at Marvel, was a little more difficult to track down in this respect, but one such drawing turned up:

Though given the sheer number of characters Buscema has brought his style to, the artist himself might have been a bit lost in the crowd if they had been included.  What we see here is quite satisfactory--and Buscema's positioning of himself is an interesting choice in comparison with other such portraits.

I would have expected a similar throng of characters in a George Perez portrait, but the drawings which turned up were surprisingly reserved.

There are no Daredevil images in Wally Wood's selfie, but perhaps a takeaway panel from one of his stories explains why (though the breadth of Wood's work with other subject matter would be more extensive than the pigeon-hole he establishes for himself here).

Several of Gil Kane's offerings focused on his work at DC, though at least one of them included some of his renderings of Marvel characters:

Finally, the portraits of John Romita and Herb Trimpe round out this assortment nicely.

(If you can identify the character posed in front of the Glob in Trimpe's portrait, there's a free Trimpe-rendered Incredible Hulk comic in it for you! (Well, more like my sincere thanks, instead!)

I was surprised at the dearth of such character-based portraits for Rich Buckler, Neal Adams, Jim Starlin, Barry Smith, Bill Everett, George Tuska, Don Heck, and other notables, all of whom had a hand in building Marvel into the brand it became. If you're curious to see other self-portraits not featured here, do check out the PPC's prior posts on the subject, where you'll find those of Jack Kirby, Marie Severin, et al.

Renditions of the ideal Marvel Bullpen, as conceived by Marie Severin and Bob Camp.

Monday, May 18, 2020

The Fugitives!

From what we know of Quicksilver's and the Scarlet Witch's time in the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, the siblings were not at all happy with being obligated to serve the group's leader, Magneto, in order to repay a debt incurred when he saved their lives from European villagers who harbored superstitious fears toward their mutant abilities. The situation was at least tolerable for Quicksilver, however, with his animus toward humans evident even then; though while technically bound by the same debt that Wanda owed Magneto, he mostly remained to protect his sister from the detestable behavior of their fellow members, Mastermind and the Toad, as well as any possible mistreatment of Wanda on the part of the ruthless Magneto.

Even so, when the opportunity arises for he and his sister to free themselves of Magneto's yoke, Pietro is insistent that they take advantage of it. Yet there are complications--with Wanda, of all people, having reservations as to what course of action to take, if any.

At this point in time, the Avengers were using Tony Stark's 5th Avenue townhouse as a weekly meeting place (and temporary H.Q. when necessary), so the Fantastic Four were indeed the only heroes whose famous address was a dependable avenue for callers.

Unfortunately, this pair's reputation as villains, deserved or not, has preceded them.

And so, with the Torch and the Thing predisposed to deal with any dangerous mutants on sight, the way is paved for a conflict which, if better handled on both sides, might have been avoided.  At any rate, it's a bizarre matchup, to be sure--but which duo holds the edge?